Win of Anti-Immigrant SD Party With 17.6 % Creates Political Uncertainty in Sweden

Published September 11th, 2018 - 11:52 GMT
Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson (Twitter)
Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson (Twitter)

Bono was seen making a Nazi salute during a U2 concert in Paris, as he mocked the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats party in the wake of the country's general election.

Performing as his 'evil alter ego' Mr MacPhisto, Bono shouted the name of SD leader Jimmie Åkesson while throwing his right arm out, after congratulating Sweden for discovering their 'Aryan potential'.

Åkesson's anti-immigrant SD party won 17.6 per cent of the vote, leaving Sweden in political deadlock with neither mainstream block strong enough to form a government.

The country is now facing weeks - if not months - of political uncertainty and complex coalition talks, as all other parties have refused to govern alongside SD.

Video footage shows the U2 frontman making the unmistakable Hitler-comparison in between songs during the band's Experience + Innocence Tour gig in the French capital on Sunday.

Bono is seen speaking into a camera which applies a digital clown mask onto his face on the big screen behind him, transforming him into Mr MacPhisto - a devil parody character he first invented during U2's Zoo TV Tour in the 1990s.

In character as Mr MacPhisto, Bono says: 'I'm just back from Sweden. I didn't know how much I'd like the Swedish.

'Tall, blond, blue eyed... boring. But now the Swedes are beginning to discover their Aryan potential.

He then shouted: 'Akesson! Jimmie Akesson!,' while performing a Nazi salute.

'I like him, I like him, he has done so well in the election today,' he added. 'I love elections. I love balloons. I love parties that get out of hand.'

Bono's Mr MacPhisto appeared to mock not just Akesson, but the rise in support for the far-right in Sweden, where SD - which has its roots in neo-Nazi organisations - was the most popular party among male voters.

One in four Swedish men voted for SD, compared to just 14 per cent of women, according to the VALU exit poll.

The VALU exit poll has been carried out by Swedish public service TV since 1991. In the 2010 VALU, SD won five per cent of the male vote and in 2014, 16 per cent.

This year, 24 per cent of men said they had voted for SD, compared to 19 per cent for the Moderates and 23 per cent for the current ruling party; The Social Democrats.

With 143 versus 144 seats in the 379 seat Parliament, neither the centre-right Alliance - made up of the Moderates, the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats - nor a centre-left coalition - Social Democrats, the Greens and Left Party - have mandate to rule.

The Sweden Democrats' gains, up from 12.9 per cent in the last election, has left them with 62 seats in parliament.

Had any of the parties been willing to co-operate with them, they could have been the 'kingmakers', however all other parties stand firm in their refusal to govern alongside them.

Formal invitations from SD leader Jimmie Åkesson, who has tried to move the party away from its neo-Nazi origins, to the Moderates and the CD to discuss a new Swedish government, have been turned down.

The official count will not be finished until Wednesday, as the votes of 165,000 expatriates are still being counted, but regardless of the final toll, Sweden has been left in limbo.

The centre-left Social Democrats party, which has been governing alongside the Greens, remained the largest party, but fell to a historic low of 28.4 per cent of the vote, their worst since 1908.

A major winner of the 2018 election has been the Left Party, whose leader Jonas Sjostedt has been one of the more visible politicians on social media during the election campaign.

The party increased their share by 2.2 per cent, winning 7.9 per cent of the vote, showing a surge on both the left and right fringes in Sweden.

The Left Party, which until 1990 was called 'The Left Party, The Communists', saw its best election since 2002, when they polled at 8.3 per cent, and its third best election result since 1944.

 

 

While Akesson's Sweden Democrats party failed to live up to the predicted results of over 20 per cent - they increased their share of the votes by nearly five per cent.

And in Sweden's southernmost county of Scania, which connects to Denmark and mainland Europe via the Oresund Bridge, SD became the biggest party in 21 of 33 municipalities.

With the country in deadlock, Akesson  told a party rally on Sunday: 'We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years'.

He said he was interested in cooperating with other parties and wanted to tell Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the second-largest Moderates, 'how to govern the country'. 

However, Kristersson has ruled this out from the start. He said: 'We have been completely clear during the whole election. The Alliance will not govern or discuss how to form a government with the Sweden Democrats.'

He told supporters on Sunday night that the four-party opposition alliance in parliament 'is clearly the largest and the government should resign.'

Current PM Lofven said he intended to remain in the job despite his party's historically poor performance .

He said of the weeks ahead: 'We have a moral responsibility. We must gather all good forces. We won't mourn, we will organize ourselves.

'It is up the political parties to cooperate responsibly and create a strong government,' he said. 

Speaking after votes were counted he said 'a party with roots in Nazism' would 'never ever offer anything responsible, but hatred'.  

Preliminary results on Monday morning saw the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party bloc left with 40.6 per cent of the vote, while the opposition Alliance stands at 40.3 per cent.

In the hours before the election result, Akesson, who voted in Stockholm on Sunday, saying: 'Everything suggests we're going to have a good election. 

'I've said throughout the campaign that 20 to 30 per cent is a reasonable score for us and I think that's possible.'

While his party's election result failed to live up to his expectations, Akesson's fervent anti-immigrant campaigning still saw Sweden Democrats make significant gains.

The SD's 17.6 per cent share was an increase of almost five percentage points since 2014 but far below the highs of 25 per cent which some pre-election surveys had predicted.     

A self-proclaimed nationalist, Akesson argues that multi-cultural values and customs prevent immigrants from assimilating into Swedish society.  

Akesson has tried to sweep away the traces of the SD's origins in the fascist movement 'Bevara Sverige Svenskt' ('Keep Sweden Swedish') and purge the party of outspoken racists. 

Their transformation was described as 'trading jackboots for business suits' in the Washington Post.   

Ahead of the vote on Sunday, Prime Minister Lofven urged Swedes not to vote for the 'extremist, racist party' saying: 'It's about decency, about a decent democracy.  

Sweden took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in Europe in 2015, magnifying worries about a welfare system that many voters already believe is in crisis.

Lengthening queues for operations, shortages of doctors and teachers and a police service that has failed to deal with inner-city gang violence have shaken faith in the 'Swedish model', built on a promise of comprehensive welfare and social inclusion.

SD leader Akesson has promised to sink any government that refuses to give his party a say in policy, particularly on immigration. 

Throughout the election campaign, a number of SD officials have made headlines as journalists have uncovered abhorrent racist remarks made on social media.

In addition, more than a dozen candidates were kicked out of the party in the campaign's final week after their backgrounds in neo-Nazi movements were revealed.

With an eye on the European Parliament elections next year, Brussels policymakers are watching the Swedish vote closely, concerned that a nation with impeccable democratic credentials could add to the growing chorus of euroscepticism in the EU.    

 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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